Campus News Society & Culture

Parents Leadership Council raises over $1M for student programs

UGA students move through a serving line at Bolton Dining Commons. The Parents Leadership Council provides student meal plan scholarships through the Let All the Big Dawgs Eat program. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Parent-funded grant program enhances undergraduate student life

The University of Georgia Parents Leadership Council surpassed its 2022-2023 fundraising goal by raising over $1 million, a record for the group.

The PLC is a service-oriented group of highly engaged parents of UGA students who provide funding to the university through their annual gifts. Once a year, the council awards grants to campus organizations that have a commitment to enhancing undergraduate student life.

The PLC Grants Program started with roughly 150 families who awarded nearly $145,000 to 22 organizations. Today, the council has grown to more than 250 families, each contributing $5,000 or more annually and increasing the program’s impact exponentially. Over 11 years, the council has received roughly 670 grant applications and awarded more than $5.7 million.

This year, the PLC raised the bar further, simultaneously surpassing its fundraising goal and awarding a record amount in grants: 137 recipients received a total of more than $1.1 million. Grants went to an array of academic units and organizations focused on student wellness, access to the arts, service-learning and more.

Student Veterans Resource Center

Founded in spring 2013, the Student Veterans Resource Center is a hub for UGA’s student veterans, offering support, advocacy and a convenient location for student veterans to gather.

Gabriela Castillo places American flags in the UGA Memorial Garden in celebration of Veterans Day 2022. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

The SVRC and Student Veterans Association, a student organization affiliated with the office, are multi-year PLC grant recipients. This year is no exception, as SVA and the SVRC applied for two grants and received just over $47,000 in total. Previous grants have been used to fund scholarships, travel fees for the SVA’s annual conference, and a variety of other expenses used to uplift the student veteran community.

“I have a 100-mile daily commute to attend classes,” said Gabriela Castillo, a pre-med student who works at the SVRC. “The grants I have received from the PLC through the Student Veterans Resource Center have helped offset the expense of that commute, allowing me to complete my studies without that huge financial strain.”

National Society of Black Engineers

The National Society of Black Engineers is a student group designed to support the academic and professional success of Black engineers. By holding professional development programs and networking opportunities for students, NSBE aspires to increase the number of Black students in engineering careers and promote cultural responsibility.

This year, the Parents Leadership Council allocated $2,750 in grant funding to help NSBE members travel to various conferences so they might learn from industry leaders and develop their professional networks.

Members of UGA’s National Society of Black Engineers, including Sarah Sileshi (red sweatshirt), at the 2023 NSBE national conference in Kansas City. (Submitted photo)

“The PLC Grant Program helps to improve NSBE by financially supporting its initiatives to increase the number of Black engineers,” said Sarah Sileshi, a computer systems engineering student and NSBE president. “With these funds, we are able to send our students to the fall regional conference and national conference to network with top professionals in their field.”

Women in Science

Women in Science is an interdisciplinary student organization created and advised by Odum School of Ecology students and faculty that aims to promote equality in STEM fields. From member social events and peer mentorship to professional panels and networking, Women in Science seeks to create a welcoming and supportive environment to challenge gender biases that influence the disproportionate attrition rate for women in science.

UGA Women in Science members show off their WiSci T-shirts. (Submitted photo)

Since 2017, Women in Science has been a proud PLC grant recipient, and this year, the council allocated just over $2,000 in grant funding to support the group.

“In Women in Science, we strive to promote gender inclusivity in science and spotlight scientists who haven’t received recognition before,” said Diana Velasquez-Fuentes, president of Women in Science and a biochemistry and molecular biology student. “PLC grants allow us to chase our mission by helping us build bonds with one another, promote our events, and invest more in our future success.”

Let All the Big Dawgs Eat

The Let All the Big Dawgs Eat program’s mission is to provide sustainable meal sources for students who are experiencing food insecurity and hunger. By providing an unlimited seven-day meal plan to students in need, the program helps students afford an often-overlooked cost of college, one that can lead students to take out loans or drop out entirely.

The program offers students more than nutrition—the financial security and sense of belonging that accompany a meal plan scholarship are invaluable. The Parents Leadership Council allocated $28,000 to the program in this year’s round of grant funding, enough to award seven meal plan scholarships.

“These grants are a tremendous game changer,” said Jan Barham, assistant dean of students and administrator of the Let All the Big Dawgs Eat program. “The council’s generosity allows us to feed more students, improve their quality of life, and change their overall well-being.”